June 26, 2015

Defense bill allots funds for Ukraine

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate on June 18 passed, over White House objections, a $612 billion defense policy bill that calls for arming Ukraine, prevents another round of military base closures, and makes it harder for President Barack Obama to close the prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Senate voted 71-25 to approve the bill, which Mr. Obama has threatened to veto. The bill now must be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives. Democrats have objected to the way the National Defense Authorization Act avoids congressionally mandated spending caps by pouring extra money into a war-fighting fund that is not subject to the caps. Top Senate Democrats wrote their Republican counterparts ahead of the June 18 vote, urging the two parties to enter negotiations to end the across-the-board budget caps known as sequestration. Mr. Obama and Democrats argue that any move to lift sequestration on the defense side should be met with similar action on domestic, nonmilitary spending. The measure allots $300 million worth of military aide to Ukraine, including radars and anti-tank weapons. But it also makes it harder for Mr. Obama to make good on his long-term pledge to close Guantanamo. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press)

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